The unique function of the heart in TCM 中医心脏之独特功能

Updated: Feb 28


Heart

As discussed in a previous article (Why are organs in TCM described so differently?), the organs in TCM are often described very differently from those in modern science, but both may sometimes bear resemblances.

In this article, we share about the functions of the heart in TCM and the biggest difference between the heart in TCM and the heart as described in modern biology.

1) Blood circulation

Function

In both TCM and modern biology, the heart is involved in the circulation of blood around the body. Just like other organs in TCM, the functions or properties of the heart are described using terms such as Qi, Blood, Yin, Yang etc. One’s heart beat and blood circulation can be normal when there is sufficient Qi and Blood in the heart, balanced Yin and Yang in the heart, and no blockages in the blood vessels.

Health Conditions

Some imbalances such as insufficient Qi in the heart, insufficient Yang energy in the heart, blockage in the heart etc., may cause palpitations, stuffiness in the chest or even chest pain. However, not all imbalances in the Yin, Yang, Qi and blood of the heart will lead to the cardiac problems known in modern science. This is because the heart has another function in TCM, as described below.

2) “Spirit" (Mind)

The biggest difference between the heart in TCM and the heart in modern science is the association of “Spirit” with TCM’s heart. The “spirit” in TCM refers loosely to one’s consciousness, mind, mental state, psychology, thoughts, emotions, intentions, self-awareness, ability to give appropriate responses etc.

Heart vs Brain

It may initially seem strange that these aspects are attributed to the heart instead of the brain. However, a closer look at the Chinese language will reveal that the Chinese character for “heart” (心) has always been used to refer to one’s mind and emotions (see below).

Think 心想 Psychology 心理学 Psychological disorder 心理障碍 Wicked 心毒 Frustrated 心烦 Good-hearted 心地善良 Intentions 心意 Peace at heart 安心 Relax / Assured 放心 Happy 开心 Sad 伤心 Worry 担心 Careful 小心 Careless 粗心

It is no wonder that TCM, which is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, refers to the heart in the same way.

Health Conditions of the "Heart Spirit"

Several health problems related to the mind or nervous system, such as depression, anxiety, mental disorders, emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, or even certain speech problems may be attributed to imbalances in the TCM heart.

Acupuncture or herbs that help to balance the heart and calm the spirit may help in the treatment of such problems. Mental and emotional support from friends, family and the physician are important as well. The heart spirit is also involved in one’s sleep and everyday mood. Therefore, many cases of insomnia and constant frustration may also be attributed to disturbances of the heart spirit. These cases can also be well managed with herbs and acupuncture.

Importance of staying happy

In TCM, it is said that too much negative emotions, or extremes of any one emotion can disturb the heart spirit, which may consequently lead to the health issues described above.

Today, it is evident that negative emotions burden our mind and are clearly not healthy for anyone. Not only can negative emotions impede our productivity at work and our daily lives, they may also lead to other further problems in the long run.

To ensure a healthy heart spirit (or a healthy mind), it is important to maintain a positive outlook and stay cheerful. Whether you look at it from a TCM’s or modern science's perspective, staying happy can reap great benefits for one’s physical health.


如前篇文章(了解中医脏腑)所提到,中医之脏腑与西医所认识的内脏有所差异,但也有相同之处。

此文章将谈到中医心脏的功能及其与现代西医所涉及之心脏的差异。

(一)血液循环

功能

中医与西医所认识之心脏都有调节血液循环之功能。

中医常运用气,血,阴,阳等词汇来描述各脏腑之功能与性质,对心脏也不例外。当心脏之气血充足,阴阳协调,心脉无痹阻时,心脏搏跳及血液运行则正常。

病变

若心脏有何失调,如心气虚,心阳虚,心脉痹阻等,就可出现心悸,胸闷,胸疼等症状。

然而,不是每种心脏失调就会产生西医所认识的心脏或心血管病。这是因为中医之心脏还有另外一个功能的解释(如下所述)。

(二)心神

中医之心脏与西医所认识的心脏最大的差别在于中医认为心脏与心神有密切关系。心神其实指的是人的心意,思想,神志,精神状况,心理状况,情绪,反应等方面。

心与脑

中医医学由于根深于中国文化, 故在词汇上也广泛地运用“心”来代表一个人的思想,精神,情绪等(如下)。

Think 心想 Psychology 心理学 Psychological disorder 心理障碍 Wicked 心毒 Frustrated 心烦 Good-hearted 心地善良 Intentions 心意 Peace at heart 安心 Relax / Assured 放心 Happy 开心 Sad 伤心 Worry 担心 Careful 小心 Careless 粗心

心神病变

许多与脑、精神或神经系统有关的疾病,例如精神障碍,情绪失常,忧郁,焦虑,甚至某些言语上的障碍都能因“心”脏失调而引起。

疗法可包括针灸及中药调理心而安心神。家人及朋友的鼓励和情绪上的支持均是病情痊愈的关键。

心神也与睡眠及日常情绪有密切关系,因此失眠或心烦都能因心神受扰而导致。此些病变也能通过针灸及中药处理。

保持心情开朗的重要性

中医认为长期受到不良情绪的刺激,或过度感受任何情绪都能伤心神,以导致以上所列的疾病。

现代科学也证实不良情绪对神志有害。它不但会减低工作效率,妨碍日常生活,还能造成未来许多健康问题。

不论从中医的角度或西医的观点认识心神,保持心情开朗总会对心神及身体有极大的益处。